2010 in Review

Have been wanting to do this for some time and look back and reflect on 2010.

Overall, I would have to say that it was a tough year – separating a business partner from a business would be difficult enough, but also separating a marriage at the same time made things that much more difficult.   

The big challenge I had was to get hold of the financial systems – get them under control – and to setup structured systems to be able to delegate the work.   I must say that even though I spent most of my effort on this area in 2010 – its only 90% done.   It was just in December 2010 that we launched a full accounting system and started to work back way to get financials for the business.    We are still 6 months away from having a system I will be happy with, but we had made tremendous progress IMG_2867despite many setbacks along the way.

Some things we did great, was to restructure the companies, open up some 5 new entities – consolidate our banking with one bank, and gained a much better insight into the Chinese accounting/tax practices that should be giving us few points to the bottom line over 2011.

Our company has grown also, and we are now getting close to 40 people – our systems work well now – and we have ‘flew’ through Xmas ever so smoothly.   For this I cannot take credit – as it was all of the team that managed this – but I can take a moment to be proud of how well, just well well everyone did.

My financial results for 2010 are not in yet – and I’m hopeful that show us a good picture.   I have a program in place at the company called Vested Contributors where I want to share part of the company profit with those that are part of the pool.   My hopes are that I will be able to make people happy.   

There was one red herring that this year didn’t help us much and it was my German Shoe business adventure.   I look now, and I think that had it gone through my German friends would be very happy now since we are able to do so much as a company – but as it turned out – it didn’t go anywhere.   But, like a Chinese saying says “Some things good and some things bad – who knows”.  In this way, by now going with Germany, RedStores focus became the focus and in the high view, the really big payout will be with RedStores.   I mean – the $125MM number will be via RedStores – that is the vehicle.   Germany reminded me that I really don’t want to be tied to one customer and tied to anything I cannot control myself. 

I have to be honest and say that Mina’s sudden departure from China hurt – both on business and personal level.     Some things we can say we treat as business but we also build relationships – and by my nature – I value my relationships a lot.   I have been trying over months to figure out “where did I go wrong with Mina” – and what can I learn from it.   No answers come clear – so maybe this will be one of those things that time will tell.  Nevertheless, lets just say that “it is what it is”.

The year wouldn’t be complete with out discussing the divorce and the impact that had on the business, my personal life.   I still shudder when I think that I had to call police to the office to handle conflict in the office, that I had body guards staying outside the office and had personal body guards.   It felt like I was living in some weird crazy world where the norms didn’t apply.    It feels weird that I had reasons to seriously worried that Alex would be abducted – and even more crazy that I had people standing by for ‘recovery’.   Seems so long again, but it was only just Feb.    What is even more amazing, that despite this messy stuff spilling into the business I didn’t loose a single person due o these events.   I am really grateful for that.    I wish I could say that 2010 went ‘better’ after Feb, but it wasn’t – and it has been one of the undercurrents of 2010 – dealing with a high level of needless conflict.  

But as they say “Some things good, some things bad – who knows”.    Accounting system that wasn’t p_large_wLjZ_345e0001eb592d0fsetup for years is now almost done.   The company financial position is getting strong, the leadership is clearer and the vision is focused.    I have peace at the office, and have peace at home – which helps a LOT.  Mid-2011 I also met Jenny – and that contributes more to a better balance between work and business – which I think is a great thing.

I’m very happy that we have Gerry back on board.   My strength has always been in ‘getting it done’ – but realistically my strength has not been ‘’ideas’.   This is where Gerry and I are able to compliment each other on the path to growth.   We are still fumbling around a bit, finding out way around on how to all best work together – and the period of adjustment is long and I can see that it causes friction in some parts of the company – but I had a choice to make at one point – and that was “happy small family in a do/while 1<>1” or a bigger family, growing faster, with some tension in between.   I chose growth and tension.   Without growth I cannot create opportunities for people, so even though I may have to cause tension in parts of the company, for the long term being of everyone, I feel its my duty to grow.

Of other notable things for 2010 – HUGE relationship with Amazon – not just US, but now UK, DE and FR.   A new site launched, MJC – which actually didn’t make us millions but I think taught us much more.    We launched PearlsOnly Germany (in German) – and are launching Japan and France.   This means expanding customer care staff to handle multi-language – but looking back – world wide diversification, despite its brutal complexity (at our company size level) – had been such a right call.  When I look at our numbers from US for this year – we would not be here as a company in the current form if we only depended on the US market.   And the beauty is, that its brutally hard for our competitors to copy entry into foreign markets – when u r doing business in a US, in a way – its like running business for dummies – its all there and easy.  This is not to show disrespect to my competitors, but rather to say, that doing things outside of US adds a 3 or 4x level of complexity to running the business.   And we did this part good – very good.

So, looking at other notable events – we experimented a lot of product management, SEO in house, pricing, products, new sites – a great deal of learning will be invaluable in 2011.

Another notable thing that I’m very grateful for is that I’m hoping to mentor.   Pecce from Wall Street English (very famous in China) – and a man that actually reminds me so much of Bert (my first amazing boss at Valmet) – (both Italian so maybe that is the connection) – are starting to build a relationship.  I’m off to Hainan (Hawaii of China) in a week to spend a day with Pecce.   To put it into perspective, this man advises two companies now – and he is on 7 digit retainers (or is it 8 Smile ).  So, the money part is not the impressive part – but the fact that the man is wise and has been there is.  This is a first for me – so will see how this goes.   I will be preparing for our meeting over next few days.

And so, I’m sure I missed a whole bunch of other notables for 2011.    The pace of business is really, really FAST – a year in China is same as 5 years in Canada.     But hopefully I have touched on most of the highlights.

Cheers,

Paul